A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman fired back on Monday against announced plans by the Japanese government to purchase the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, according to the China Daily:
“We cannot allow anyone to buy or sell China’s sacred territory,” spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular press conference.
The statement came in response to a Saturday statement by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in which he indicated that the Japanese government is considering buying the Diaoyu Islands.
Liu said the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy in Japan lodged complaints to Japan on Saturday to demonstrate the Chinese government’s firm stance on safeguarding the territorial sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.
Liu reiterated that the Diaoyu Islands and its affiliated islands have been part of China’s inherent territory since ancient times and that China’s claim to the islands is backed by indisputable historical evidence.
The Diaoyu Islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, are just one of a number of small island clusters in the East and South China Seas whose sovereignty is challenged by various countries in the region. China has moved to take control of the region of late, most recently engaging in diplomatic spats with Vietnam and the Philippines. A Japan Times editorial last week urged restraint over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, a sentiment shared by a Financial Times editorial on Monday:
The law of the sea is a means of settling territorial disputes – but it relies on sensible behaviour by states in grey areas. In other parts of the world, countries have managed to agree joint resource development without renouncing competing sovereignty claims. Beijing and Tokyo have everything to gain from following such examples – especially as they have already pledged to work together on gas exploitation elsewhere in the East China Sea. That could best have been done by leaving the existing Senkaku arrangement in place.
Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s prime minister, has announced a plan for the central government to buy the islands. This change in approach is bound to anger Beijing – though it seems as much designed to foil Mr Ishihara’s more provocative intentions. If Mr Noda’s scheme secures that the islands remain undeveloped, this may be the most promising means of steering sovereignty issues back into dormancy. But Mr Noda must quickly muster some deft diplomacy so that Beijing can be persuaded to let the issue pass.
For this to succeed, all governments with a stake in the island group should recall that the cost of open conflict dwarfs any value to be had from controlling it.
See also a map, via AFP, showing the disputed islands in the East China Sea.